"He's about as relaxed as I've seen him since he's been here," Torre said yesterday at his Safe At Home Foundation charity golf tournament at Trump National Golf Course in Briarcliff Manor. "I don't think anybody really prepares themselves for what you have to deal with here. Especially guys that have been around, and they're on their way to Cooperstown . . . 'All right, I'll just do what I do.'
"They don't realize the questions they have to answer that they never had to answer in Phoenix or Seattle or wherever. And not taking anything away from those cities, but the enormity of the media here . . . I'd say over the last six years, that there's no insignificant piece of news. Some throwaway stuff that may happen there, I think it takes time for these guys to understand that this is something they have to deal with, and I know last year, he was . . . I hate to use the word overwhelmed, because I know he won't agree with me. But I think he was dealing with more than he ever thought he needed to."
I asked Torre whether he has had to lower his expectations for The Big Unit (10-7, 5.13) over the second half.
"No, I really haven't," Torre said. "What I've seen in his swagger here, the anger that you see - when I say anger, determination, I guess, when he gets his feathers ruffled a little bit . . . guys foul some pitches off, it's fun to see that. All of a sudden, OK, and all of a sudden, boom! There's that 96. I don't need 98 miles an hour. I'd say over the last half dozen starts, if we see that, we're gonna be all right as far as his contribution."
The Big Unit struck Jim Thome out three times tonight. Johnson was pumped up after the last one. RJ did not figure in the decision but he pitched well. Turned out to be a nail-biter in the ninth. Fortunately, the Bombers found a way to pull it out. They inch closer to the Red Sox, who got creamed by the A's up in Boston.